Photo, courtesy of the Edmonton Journal.
About one hour and twenty minutes elapse, just enough time to give the public a chance to see that Daniel MacIvor is a masterful story teller who holds the audience’s undivided attention, to the point where you can hear a pin drop. And it almost doesn’t even matter what MacIvor is saying because his natural demeanor and relaxed manner are so disarming, we fall quickly under his spell. This is verbatim theatre, but then it’s also MacIvor being MacIvor, using all his tried and true stage strategies such as his reading, to the audience, a negative review by Robert Cushman that hurt, or doing one of his unexpected interviews with the audience. In fact he invites a young man at the front to come on stage and answer a few questions. This is not a plant! It’s authentic. The young man happened to work in the ticket office and the actor asked him questions that in fact, gave us a resumé of the play. That prologue was clever and when the audience was ready, away went the actor with his own narrative.
Quickly then all the ingredients were in place. MacIvor’s solo presentation of Spalding Gray and his suicide followed a long silence, as though the actor were trying find his way back through the labyrinth he had just constructed for himself. He then sets up three metaphorical spaces, the Ocean and The sky and Death through which he lets fly his great imagination by setting up several parallel poetic narratives related to a reflection on Grays gesture but told obliquely by involving a man named Howard, who wants to kill himself. Along with that is another “other world” narrative about himself and the fact he has learned he is in danger because he has been inhabited by a psychic “entity” which will soon kill him if it isn’t removed. There are moments of near Beckett as the character listens to recorded voices of real individuals from the past, or he mimics living actors from the present performing to explain the future, and thus there follows one non-stop mise en abyme after the other, which of course obliterates any sense of authentic identity of a narrator , as Jean Genet did so skilfully in les Noirs. Thus, it all becomes pure theatre.
What I did like was the final twist where it appears that the narrator, MacIvor , is saved by the fact that after his own dangerous “entity” had been released by his very own personal psychic surgeon, this dangerous substance had perhaps flown away to inhabit the body of Spalding Gray, the Monologist, eventually enticing the artist to take his own life by jumping off the ferry boat to Staten Island.
Curiously, there always seemed to be a near-smile on MacIVor’s lips and we wonder if this slippage into a world of fantasy and uncanny spiritual connection isn’t also another theatrical strategy to draw us closer to the event at the GCTC ? After all, theatre is play, and here we are in the midst of its purest example although the last gesture with the water tossed over the head was a bit of a jolt and sent him into another realm completely.!! .
Not one of my favourite MacIvor shows however this show in the smallish space of the GCTC theatre, was a perfect chance to get a very intimate look at the performance style of an internationally known artist and this in itself was a special event.
Who Killed Spalding Gray? April 30 –May 2, 2014.
Who Killed Spalding Gray created by Daniel MacIvor, written and performed by Daniel MacIvor, directed by Daniel Brooks
By rework Productions (Toronto)